Sunday, October 13, 2019

Total Depravity

I've been examining an article I read some years back entitled "Refuting the False TULIP Doctrine". Last time I introduced the subject and this time I'd like to address his take on Total Depravity.

Total Hereditary Depravity
“T” stands for Total Hereditary Depravity. This is the core belief of the TULIP doctrine. As a result of this belief all of the other doctrines are created. Put simply, this is the belief that the human soul is born corrupt. As soon as a baby is born, according to this doctrine, it is in sin and in need of a redeemer. In an attempt to support this doctrine they go to Psalm 51:5 and Psalm 58:3 among others. However, notice that in Psalm 51:5, David is not saying that he was born a sinner but rather that he was born into a sinful world. What if the verse read this way, “Behold I was shaped in a potato patch and in a field of spuds did my mother conceive me?” Would this mean that David was born a potato? No, it simply means that he was born in the presence of potatoes. Also, notice that in Psalm 58:3 it says that one goes astray from the mother’s womb. One is not born astray but has to go astray. That verse proves that we are born sinless not sinful!

There are many arguments that show positively that the human soul is not sinful at birth but only when it commits sin. First of all, notice that God gives man his soul (Ecclesiastes 12:7Zechariah 12:1). Can or would God give a man an evil soul? This would contradict James 1:17 which says that every good and perfect gift comes from God. God does not bring forth evil (Matthew 7:18). Furthermore, why would Jesus have said that the one had to become like a little child to enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1-3). Was he saying that one has to become sinful and depraved in order to go to heaven? Of course not!

What this individual calls someone being in sin the moment he is born, is what is correctly described as original sin. That is, everyone who comes into the world is stained with the sin of Adam. Paul makes that clear in Romans 5 when he says that in Adam all died because of their sin. There are a couple of primary interpretations as to how exactly it is that we’re in Adam. One theory is that which was espoused by Augustine: the idea that we were physically in Adam’s loins. Those who follow this theory support this interpretation by appealing to Hebrews 7:10 where the writer explains that, in a way, Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek because he was in Abraham’s loins when Abraham paid those tithes to the priest. Another interpretation is the spiritual theory. That is, we are spiritually all in Adam and are not physically, literally in Adam. We are guilty of Adam’s sin spiritually and his disobedience was transferred to his posterity and thus all sinned in him.  

Whatever explanation you think is correct, however, the truth of the matter is that humanity is indeed corrupt and comes into the world in that way. People do not become sinners because they sin. They sin because they are sinners. As Moses tells us in Genesis when God was about to destroy the world by a flood, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Man has not gotten better with the passage of time. On the contrary, they have become worse. Witness today’s complete disregard for morality and the openness with which depravity is paraded in the streets.

As to this individual’s explanation of Psalm 51 (and the cute potato patch illustration), he unfortunately misses the whole point of the Psalm. The context here is that of David’s repentance when he was confronted about his sin with Bathsheba and his subsequent murder of her husband Uriah. David is not simply saying that he was conceived into a world of sin, but that he was in sin as soon as he was conceived; not by personal sin, but by the sin that his humanity was subjected to being a descendant of Adam. That serves as David’s explanation as to why he is a sinner, not only in this instance, but in his life in general. That is, again the point that Paul makes when he says that, although there was no law from Adam to Moses, yet all died, including infants, because sin reigned even then. John Gill is helpful here when he says, “as soon as ever the mass of human nature was shaped and quickened, or as soon as soul and body were united together, sin was in him, and he was in sin, or became a sinful creature.”

Our author’s interpretation of Psalm 58:3, is quite unfortunate. He says that “people go astray and are not born astray.” Notice, however, that the psalmist says that “the wicked go astray from the womb.” So, by this person’s own accounting, men are going astray even before they are born. Whether they are conceived astray or go astray after conception, the result is the same: we go astray even before we are born. Again, not because we have personal sin, but because we inherit the sin of our first parent. Someone may argue that this is referring only to the wicked. But as we saw earlier, no one is sinless and pure in God’s sight (Psalm 143:2). Those who are righteous, are only so because God declares them to be so in Christ, not because they are holier than someone else.

There are a lot of problems with this individual’s interpretation of Total Depravity. But let me finally address his ridiculous idea that if Total Depravity is true, then that would mean that God gives people evil souls. God is not the author of sin. To say that Total Depravity means that God gives people evil souls is extremely ignorant an demonstrates that this author knows little of what he is critiquing. Man is born in sin because he inherits the sin of Adam; not because God somehow gives him an evil soul. Again, Paul speaks about all dying in Adam and all who are in Christ living in him (Romans 5:18-19). Since all of us are in Adam, then we all die: spiritually and physically. But only those who are in Christ will be made alive. The question that has to be asked is: are you in Christ?


  1. I always marvel when someone tries to press the notion that we are born sinless. If we were truly born sinless, the greatest mercy would be to kill every baby - better a baby in heaven than a 90 year old reprobate in hell.

    Our sin nature, our Adamic nature is passed on from generation to generation, w/o fail. Our sin nature does not suddenly arise with the first sin (whenever that is imagined to be) - but rather, it is with us before birth. Good article.

    1. If there were ever any doubts as to whether original sin is true, what Paul says in Romans 5 should put that objection to rest. That is, in fact, his very point: we die because we are guilty before God even when we're not guilty of the the same sin as Adam. And, his argument in pointing out that death reigned from Adam to the Law is that all were guilty of sin even before the law. In other words, even those who did not have the law, i.e. Abraham, the heathen, infants, etc., were still guilty of sin. Thanks.